Story of flight soars to success for writer

Librarian: The author of two books on the Wright brothers teaches Harford County children about the 100th anniversary of the first flight.

December 07, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

Wendie C. Old walked into the Harford County Public Library's Bel Air branch carrying a stack of North Carolina quarters, Wright brothers memorabilia and her new children's book, To Fly.

Old, a children's librarian at the county's Joppa branch, asked the 12 children in the multimedia conference room questions about the Wright brothers Tuesday, in the cadence of an experienced storyteller.

When a boy in the second row answered a question correctly, Old rewarded him with one of the quarters, which depict the first flight at Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903, on the back of the coin. He clutched it tightly in his fist as Old continued her presentation.

As the author of two books about Orville and Wilbur Wright, Old has been traveling to library branches throughout the county presenting a program that teaches children about the famous siblings.

Her first book about the Wright brothers, The Wright Brothers: Inventors of the Airplane, was published in 2000. It is part of Enslow Publisher's Historical American Biographies series and is aimed at readers age 12 and older. However, when Enslow cut out most of Old's description of the first flight, the author found she had enough material for a picture book.

The second book, To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers, published last year by Clarion Books, contains most of the material that Enslow omitted from its book. To Fly is divided into 15 one-page chapters and an epilogue. Clarion paired each chapter with Robert Andrew Parker's ink-and-watercolor illustrations.

For Old, who is from Parkville and spent several years as a librarian in the Baltimore County system while raising her two daughters, the subject of the Wright Brothers was one she was close to, literally.

"I grew up in the Ohio River Valley and my sister went to Wright State University," she said, noting that the Wright family lived in Dayton, Ohio, where the state university was named after the brothers.

"And I always liked to fly," she added.

She had written six biographies for Enslow before embarking on the one about Wilbur and Orville Wright. Early in her research in 1997, she said, she realized that the centennial celebration of the first flight was coming up.

So she decided that she would write To Fly and have it published a year before the 100th anniversary of the flight.

Since its release, To Fly has been recognized by the American Libraries Association, named a 2003 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book in the nonfiction division and named a 2003 Orbis Pictus Honor Book for children's nonfiction.

"Wendie did a wonderful job, and the book was well-researched," said Betty Darst, a contributor to several books on the Wright brothers and Katherine Wright, Orville and Wilbur's younger sister. "She has that quality of research. I do put To Fly on display when I give presentations."

Old's book also appears on Darst's bibliography of children's books about the Wright brothers at the Web site dreams-of-flight.com/flightbib. htm.

According to Darst, To Fly was one of the first books published to commemorate the centennial celebration of the first flight. Since then, a plethora of literature on the Wright brothers has been produced.

Darst said she hopes this renewed interest doesn't end with the anniversary celebration.

"Now that these books are really published, I just want people to read the literature as we go into the second century of flight," Darst said.

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